Jeff Passan

  • 10 Degrees: Predicting AL and NL All-Star teams full of surprises and snubs

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

    Predicting All-Star teams takes a fair bit of role-playing, first into the minds of the fans selecting the starters, then into those of the players who pick the reserves and finally into the heads of the managers that fill out the remainders of the roster. Surely the most enjoyable portion of the proceedings was the time inside Bruce Bochy's head, which felt like a voyage into the Spelling Manor.

    Ultimately, I emerged with 34 players for each bloated All-Star team – and a few notable observations. Missouri's early efforts to rock the vote fell short in a handful of places. Finding an All-Star on the Boston Red Sox proved rather difficult. And determining home-field advantage in an exhibition game whose starting pitcher never goes more than two innings remains the undisputed king of sporting stupidity, a mandate steeped not in logic or reason but the emotional reactions of a commissioner who no longer gets to make the rules.

    All of the above can agree that in another year of destitute offenses the inclusion of …

    The only position thinner than catcher is shortstop, where …

  • Louisville Slugger icon calls it a career

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    For 45 years, nine months and eight days, Danny Luckett's office consisted of a spinning machine and a cloud of sawdust. Before retiring Friday morning, Luckett turned his final baseball bat, one of an estimated 2½ million he created during nearly half a century making Louisville Sluggers for so many of the moments burned into the sport's history.

    Hank Aaron's 715th home run came with a 35-inch, 33-ounce Model A99 run through Luckett's lathe. Ozzie Smith's go-crazy-folks homer in the 1985 NLCS? Luckett and a K75 model. Joe Carter's World Series-winning home run in '93 was a Luckett-spun J93 model, and nearly every Derek Jeter plate appearance came using a P72 turned by Luckett. Every day, Luckett stepped out the door at 4:50 a.m., into the office at 5:30, inhaled the rich smell of metal shaping wood for 10 hours and witnessed his work as quickly as the same evening.

    "I take pride in what I do," Luckett said. "It's not just throwing a piece of wood in there and turning it."

    "I don't know what we're going to do without him," Redman said.


  • Why the Axe Bat, Dustin Pedroia may help make the round handle obsolete

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 6 days ago

    The baseball bat is a brutish creation, a blunt instrument created to pummel a round ball. Never has anyone accused it of being some sort of technological marvel. It exists in almost the exact form it did when baseball first started a century and a half ago because even its earliest incarnations came pretty close to perfection.

    Today's version looks about the same as it has for decades – maybe a little shorter and lighter, some with cupped barrels, all with the same round knob on the handle, save for a single bat of those used by the 750 major leaguers. It belongs to Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, and the man who helped make it a reality sees a future where all bats share the same handle as another humble tool: the axe.

    "I think it's only a matter of time before the axe-shaped handle is the standard," said Hugh Tompkins, the director of research and development for Baden Sports, a Seattle-area company that created the Axe Bat, which this year received permission from Major League Baseball for in-game use. "The round-handled bat will be like a rotary telephone."

    "Yeah," Pedroia said, "I wish it was certified."

  • Why Pete Rose can't seem to get past the troubles of his own making

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    Pete Rose never could get out of his ego’s way. It grew so big that it subsumed him whole, deluded him into thinking he could get away with baseball’s greatest sin by lying and lying some more and lying again after that, a quarter century of lies stacked on top of one another like Lego blocks. At some point, the tower grows big enough that the inevitability of its toppling makes the fall all the more spectacular.

    Secrets live long lives in baseball, tucked into the nooks and crannies of a game that never forgets. Most of them expose themselves eventually, and it was just a matter of time until the world learned what it always figured: Rose bet on baseball as a player.

    Before that, of course, was Rose’s go-to line that he never bet on baseball at all, a story he repeated for 15 years before succumbing to a truth that always seems to catch up. Rose spent his career outrunning his expectations and limitations. It deluded him into thinking he could do the same with a deed peerless in its grievousness to the baseball establishment.

    “Guys, I really don’t know what the [expletive] to say,” Rose said. “I’m going to the Hall of Fame. You’d better figure it out before the season ends.”


  • 10 Degrees: This is why Red Sox are unlikely to blow up roster amid another disastrous season

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    Yes, the issues go beyond a buxom third baseman hearting two pictures of a similarly buxom woman on Instagram when in the bathroom during the middle of the game. Pablo Sandoval became the flashpoint of this latest season gone awry this week with his cellular shenanigans, which were a bad look but nothing hundreds of other ballplayers haven't done. He learned quickly, as do all Red Sox, that the power of the magnifying glass in Boston is inversely proportionate to the size of the numbers a player puts up.

    Being the scapepanda is not crushing his spirit, not yet. "Why am I going to be uncomfortable?" Sandoval said Sunday. "I don't get it." He does not want general manager Ben Cherington to blow up these Red Sox, and sources familiar with the organization's thinking say that is not an option, not at this point, nor should it be considering what it would take for that to happen.

    He paused and reconsidered.

    "OK, maybe not Betts," he said, "but someone of value."

    More MLB coverage:

  • How Royals fans have turned MLB's All-Star voting into anarchy

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 11 days ago

    Anarchy noun an·ar·chy \ˈa-nər-kē\

    1. A situation of confusion and wild behavior in which the people in a country, group, organization, etc., are not controlled by rules or laws 2. The 2015 American League All-Star voting

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In every corner of the Kansas City Royals' clubhouse, they revel in the chaos, each player's face contorted into something that resembles a Guy Fawkes mask. Somehow, the American League All-Star team's lineup as of today consists of eight Royals and the best player in the world, and this, to them, is the most glorious kind of anarchy, one everybody involved wants to believe is built on the back of pure passion.

    "If I'm Miguel Cabrera, I'm looking at myself like, 'Are you kidding me?' " Hosmer said. "Miguel is a candidate and should be the starter."

    "Everyone looks at it from a whole. Certain guys maybe shouldn't be there or shouldn't be starting, and everyone puts us in that category."

  • The real threat for Cardinals is how high investigation could reach

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 13 days ago

    Every instance of corporate nefariousness ends with the same question: Just how high did it go? The FBI is investigating the St. Louis Cardinals for possibly breaching the Houston Astros’ computerized database and thieving information, as The New York Times first reported, and as the fallout of the accusations rocks the sport, the focus will turn to who knew what.

    The story is ridiculous, titillating, a 2015 Zeitgeist special: The best franchise in baseball allegedly hacks a team that has lost 100 games in three consecutive seasons and steals scouting reports, trade talks and other proprietary data. Espionage in baseball previously had been limited to sign stealing. Now, the team whose owner, Bill DeWitt Jr., was in charge of the committee to choose the new commissioner and whose general manager, John Mozeliak, has built a scouting and player-development juggernaut is the target of an investigation into a serious federal crime.

  • Sources: MLB team enlisting potentially revolutionary technology to study pitching

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago

    In the quest to keep arms healthy, the Tampa Bay Rays have always positioned themselves ahead of baseball, emphasizing a comprehensive shoulder-strengthening program long before other teams caught on. Now the Rays are hoping technology can give them a step up, too.

    The Rays will be the first team to install Kinatrax, a markerless motion-capture system, in their stadium, sources told Yahoo Sports. An announcement touting the move is expected Monday.

    Kinatrax uses ultra-high-speed cameras and aims to capture the sort of biomechanical data that previously necessitated the placement of reflective markers on different body parts. Should Kinatrax do what it purports to, it would revolutionize baseball by offering looks at pitchers’ in-game biomechanics instead of those revealed in laboratory settings.

    Live in-game data from Kinatrax will not immediately be available. Each pitch is 1.3 gigabytes per camera, and with eight cameras, there are upwards of two terabytes of data per game. Kinatrax will upload data from a game into cloud storage, and it will be ready for the Rays to analyze the next day.

    More MLB coverage:

  • 10 Degrees: MLB's Year of the Rookie is upon us, and it is glorious

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago

    It is one of baseball's great pleasures, and 2015 has given us debut after debut worthy of hashtags, headlines and perhaps even a little innocent frothing at the mouth. Fans are rabid for their prospects, and the cup runneth over already, barely past the Ides of June.

    So deep is the group that we at 10 Degrees headquarters must offer a pre-emptive apology for the limitation of this column. It being only 10 degrees limits us to nine names, and nine cannot possibly do even the elite of this rookie class justice. Joey Gallo, whose has the best home run celebration in baseball and is soon going to clobber one 500-plus feet, didn't find himself included. (So read more about him here.) Neither did Noah Syndergaard, the only pitcher who could compete with Gallo in a Home Run Derby and hold his own.

    Just last week, an official suggested …

    As much of a surprise as the early arrival of Buxton was …

    When it seems like every pitcher in the major leagues is coming with the arsenal of…

    All that, and…

    Baseball today is a kids' world, and we're all just living in it, hoping…

    More MLB coverage:

  • Behold the power of chicken burritos, and the Rangers' Joey Gallo and Prince Fielder

    Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports 18 days ago

    Ten years separate them, and in baseball that constitutes an entire generation. Joey Gallo sees everything all wide-eyed, the kid who can't believe this incredible world into which he strutted, while Prince Fielder is the oldest 31-year-old around, his lens colored by the knowledge of what happens when it all goes away.

    They are both Texas Rangers, both left-handed power hitters, both trying to keep this Yu Darvish-less season afloat for a team that looked doomed as recently as a month ago. And that is baseball, more or less, guys in different stages of life with their similarities often limited to handedness experiencing the same thing with different types of appreciation.

    Gallo, for instance, could not believe what his first major league plane trip offered him: Chipotle. Like, for free. Get a sheet, circle what you want, burrito on demand. So six loops later – brown rice, pinto beans, chicken, hot salsa, cheese and guacamole, thanks – Gallo felt like he had arrived in the big leagues, every bit as much as when he wrecked a home run nearly 450 feet in his debut.